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Victims Of Drug Cartels Protest Mexican President’s Visit To Washington

“Support the students of the Ayotzinapa school, Guerrero [state]” CREDIT: SCOTT KEYES
“Support the students of the Ayotzinapa school, Guerrero [state]” CREDIT: SCOTT KEYES

Nansi Cisneros’ younger brother has been missing for 444 days.

On October 19, 2013, four men allegedly beat and kidnapped Cisneros’ brother Javier, then 30 years old, at a neighbor’s house in Jalisco, Mexico, an area that has given way to violence by the Zetas and the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels. When Cisneros went to authorities for help, she said that they did nothing about his case in spite of her pleas. When the neighbors fled town after the incident, Cisneros said that she broke into the house and found some blood, a bullet, and her brother’s sweater. He had been shot in the leg by drug cartel members and was possibly alive, she gathered from rumors around town, but more than a year on, that is all she has to go on.

“It’s really hard not to be able to answer my mom or [Javier’s] eight-year-old daughter where her dad is or why the police police isn’t helping to find him,” Cisneros told ThinkProgress in a phone interview late Monday night.

“I’m angry that the [Mexican] president is here and he’s able to fly in and out of the country,” Cisneros said, explaining that she had traveled to Washington, D.C. from Los Angeles, California this week with the hopes of directing her frustration at Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto when he visits President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday. “I’m here for my brother, but also for a lot of other people that have disappeared.”

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“We don’t know the difference between authorities and narcos (drug trafficker) in Mexico anymore,” she added. “They’re the same. I don’t think that [the president] is helping at all. This is bigger than my brother. I want to find my brother, but I think Peña Nieto doesn’t care.”

Javier Cisneros CREDIT: Nansi Cisneros
Javier Cisneros CREDIT: Nansi Cisneros

Cisneros said that Javier was deported to Mexico in 2006 after cops pulled him over for missing a bike reflector. She said that the background check turned up a previous confrontation with cops, for which her brother had served six months in prison. “The detectives took him to my house so he can hand me his jewelry, and then they took him,” Cisneros said. “I knew he would be deported that night.”

Calling for an end to a flawed security cooperation agreement known as Mérida Initiative (or Plan Mexico, by critics) aimed at combating drug trafficking, Cisneros and others are expected to partake in a nationwide protest during Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s U.S. visit. Citing the plan as a cause for the September 2014 disappearance of 43 Mexican college students in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, outraged protesters will take to the White House to rally against Peña Nieto, who they believe, has been complicit in the scandal and has not been doing enough to stop corruption. Since 2007 when the Mérida Initiative was authorized, at least 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence. The violence has only gotten worse and gender-focused in recent times.

The U.S. has stated that it would extend the Mérida Initiative indefinitely, pledging $2.3 billion to purchase aircraft, surveillance software, even using local U.S. cops to train Mexican police in the fight against drug cartels. But according to a press release by the campaign #USTired2, protesters will voice opposition to the binational meeting and to the United States’ “ongoing military aid and assistance to the Mexico’s security forces, which are now proven to be perpetrating massive human rights violations.”

Strong evidence and initial DNA tests confirmed in December that gang members ambushed, then later incinerated 43 students at a garbage dump among a pyre of tires in the September incident. Among the 80 individuals detained for questioning, the mayor of Iguala in the state of Guerrero and his wife are accused of ordering the police to kill the students for staging a demonstration about the lack of funding from their school.

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The Guerrero student killings are memorable for the depth of alleged government involvement, though it’s not the latest massacre in the drug war involving Mexican law enforcement. Evidence from eyewitnesses and forensics indicate that eight soldiers killed 22 civilians in rural southern Mexico in June 2014. Despite the federal police taking an active role to combat organized crime, there is still rampant abuse and corruption, like the October 2013 arrest of 13 federal police officers, who took part in at least seven homicides and four kidnappings.

A year after Peña Nieto took office, a Washington Office on Latin American report reported that “there are widespread accusations of collusion between government officials, the police, and criminal groups.” According to a 2014 Congressional report, “the State Department’s annual human rights reports covering Mexico have cited credible reports of police involvement in extrajudicial killings, kidnappings for ransom, and torture.” A 2013 Human Rights Watch investigation found that 149 of the 249 abductions between 2007 and 2013 “were enforced disappearances” by public security personnel, or employees of the federal, state, and municipal police, the Army, and the Navy, and judicial police.

Though the Mexican government prioritized human rights and crime prevention through the Mérida Initiative and even arrested and killed high-profile drug cartel members, kidnapping and extortion are still at record-high levels. And in 2012, the Washington Post found that although the previous Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s security forces captured or killed scores of wanted drug-cartel leaders, “there has been no measurable decrease in the quantity of drugs smuggled into the United States.”